There's Mail From Mom!

Wouldn't it be nice to have a letter from mom in the mailbox each time you checked it? Here's a place to check your mailbox for a heart-to-heart talk with mom...

Sunday, December 13, 2009

It's the most wonderful time of the year....

Tomorrow we're going to shop the day away as a family. We'll end up eating hot Krispy Creme donuts at the end of the day (I'll inhale!) and head home happy and exhausted. This brings back memories of Christmas' past when we've done the same thing.

Two years ago our entire family got together and stayed in a cabin in Pigeon Forge to celebrate Christmas together. At the end of the day all the kids, Grandpa Charles, Esther, Alicia, Nathan and I (with Grandpa Gary at the wheel) all crammed into the church van (and I mean literally!) and headed off to get Krispy Cremes to take back to the cabin.

We were singing, taking in the array of lights and having a wonderful time. When we got to the window of the Krispy Creme the girl at the window wanted to know how many people we had in the van. Gary told her and she handed us each one a Krispy Creme hat to wear! Well, that made the kids happy! Grandpa Charles held the warm Krispy Cremes and we all put our hats on while we made a tour of the 12 days of Christmas down the strip and then headed back to the cabin where the little girls played waitresses in their hats and handed out the melt-in-your-mouth donuts. You just can't have Christmas here at the Neals without one trip to the Krispy Creme on a Christmas outing. When I asked Asher the other day what food he associated with Christmas shopping his answer was, "Warm Krispy Cremes at the end of the day."

Some of our family traditions began from making the best of a rough time. When the older four were very little we had very financially "tight" Christmases. One year while my husband was at work the kids and I put the tree up and the children wanted to have a party around the tree after we were finished. I had little to no food in the house and was racking my brain what to do.

I told the kids we'd have a birthday party for Jesus around the tree. I made a chocolate cake and then realized I didn't have any milk! So I found a jar of Tang someone had given us and heated the Tang. Now I don't know about you but chocolate cake and hot orange drink doesn't sound to good to me but the kids thought it was fantastic!

We turned all the lights off and I gathered the children around at my feet while I sit on the bottom steps of our stairway and I read them the Christmas story while they ate birthday cake and drank hot Tang.

Every year the kids would want to do the same thing. We had to have chocolate cake and hot Tang. People would say, "Chocolate cake and hot tang?????"

"Yup, it's a tradition!"

Our pocket calendar was another attempt on my part to bring sparkle to a very tight budget. I made the first one out of little scraps of fabric I had and hung it on the wall. Back then it was mostly coupons and little promises from mom.

"Good for one hour of playing whatever you want with mom." I ended up playing with GI Joes, Johnny West, and Tammy and Cyndy dolls many an hour over that one! When I would announce my hour was up they would always beg me to keep on playing saying, "But we just got started!"

My grandmother had one of those little elf dolls (looked like Snap, Crackle and Pop) sitting in her china cupboard and somehow when she died he ended up at our house. He would preside over the pocket calendar and sign the coupons. He was named Ralph. Ralph still visits via the pocket calendar each December. Ralph puts new batteries in toys that have been forgotten, makes sure a new person or prop joins our nativity set each year, hides money in the tree branches and leaves the children coupons to this day. (He just left one promising each of our children the meal of their choice during January or February.)

When Alicia was little she was positively sure she saw Ralph meandering through the branches of the Christmas tree! She also thought she felt him pinch her when she reached in my pocket! :)

I look back at the late hours I put in sewing Christmas gifts from scraps of fabric, sewing Barbie doll clothes and selling them so I could buy my children the toy (notice the singular word toy?) they wanted, dropped my pride and bartered with the lady at Party House to buy a display model of a doll that Niki had set her heart on, (Niki, I had to go home and give that doll and its clothes a good washing it had been handled so much!) went to auctions and bought items and then came home and revamped them, (Niki's first sewing machine, the boys beloved barn, and the Walton's cardboard home that was played with till it fell apart!) and scouring library books for ideas that I could convert to our budget.

Over the years these very things that came out of necessity have turned into the most wonderful traditions and memories that the Neal family has. Once the Lord taught me to always try to make the most of the hard situations it was a Christmas gift for me in disguise.

I think of how some of the most wonderful memories we have are from the Lord stepping in and giving us a Christmas miracle.

When my husband was between churches we were living in Knoxville and we were living by faith, my husband's income and our older children's income pooled together. When Christmas came we had $3.00 per child to spend on Christmas.

The Lord had been faithfully providing for us so I wasn't paniced, just wondering what we were going to do! I had gone to the Goodwill and found a little fire truck for Asher that had a siren on it and Brian's aunt had sent me a large metal semi truck to give him that had the buttons with the sound on it so he was taken care of. I had gone to a thrift shop and bought each of my girls a skirt. I had made them each a piece of clothing to match their skirt. I had nothing for Nate or Nevin but was looking!

Gary was working long hours as a manager at a Save A Lot grocery so I was having to do my hunting for something for the boys after dropping the girls off at Crown College.

Just two days before Christmas our friend Mike Shockley showed up and handed us money that someone had given him to give to us. He said that person had stipulated it was to be spent on getting Christmas gifts for our kids. It gave me $25 to spend on each child!

Boy was I excited! So we piled all the kids (plus one of Nevin's friends) into the van and headed out to shop!

At about 10 p.m. everyone was starved so we decided to stop at a Hardee's. We pooled our money to eat and didn't have very much. When we got into the Hardee's the manager came up to us and said they were getting ready to clean out the fried chicken and they offered us all they had left (it was a bunch) for $3.00. You talk about rejoicing in the Lord's goodness! I was so excited. It was like the Lord just topped off a day of blessings with one more.

Most of all, I was thrilled that my children were seeing that the Lord doesn't fail us when we walk in obedience and faith. Even over things we don't need but just desire.

Now that I have grandchildren I get the privilege of gathering them around me. That makes the wonder of the season twice the delight!

I love sewing for them. In my scrapbook I have a picture of a superhero that Caleb drew me. I was talking to Alicia's children and Audrey told me that she wanted a fancy dress that she could wear to play in, (I guess her mom wasn't too fond of her playing in her fancy church dresses1:) Isaiah told me he wanted a military uniform, and then Caleb told me he wanted a Sylvester man costume. I asked him what he looked like and he described him.

He said, "You know, he has green in the body, and an S on his chest, red at the bottom of his legs..."

I said, "Caleb, I don't think I've seen him before. Could I look him up on the internet and get a picture of him?"

He said, "No grandma, I made him up!"

I said, "Then you'll need to draw me a picture so I know what I'm doing."

He said, "Ok, I'll do that right now." And the phone went dead!

Three days later I got the picture. He wrote on it. "Call me when you get this."

When I went to get the fabric I told the lady cutting it. "You're in on something big here."

She said, "Really?"

I said, "Yes, my grandson and I are creating a new superhero named Sylvester-man and you're a part of it now."

That tickled her!

I wouldn't trade watching the American Girl movies with my granddaughters or the Christmas we made a play and acted it out for the family after we'd watched one together.Thank you Mariah, Savannah, Briley and Cierra for letting me be a part of your acting careers!

I wouldn't trade watching "The Nutcracker" or "Polar Express" with my at-home children and my grandchildren. I wouldn't trade reading Christmas stories to them or late nights of laying on pallets on the floor and talking to them while the tree lights flicker.

Christmastime is a wonderful way to culminate the year. It's like throwing icing on a cake!

This year I've thought much of the mood that comes into our home this time of year. The house is twinkling with lights, a tiny village, Bethlehem sits quietly in our living room waiting for the birth of the Savior, the breakfast bar has a new treat on it each day for the family, special blends of coffee are perked, new flavors of cocoa show up in the beverage basket, sweet music plays on the computer or the cd player in the kitchen, and the house smells of chocolate, cinnamon, warm breads or cookies. You can sense anticipation, excitement, and a sense of celebration. There truly is a spirit that comes with Christmas.
And all this is as a result of the Savior's birth! We are able to enjoy life, our family, to have a sweet spirit in our home because He has entered our lives. It all began with Him being willing to bring Himself to earth as a little baby. I never want my children and my children's children to forget this part of it all. That every good and perfect gift that we have in our lives is because of Him, Him, Him.....and that blessings are worthless if we don't know the Blesser Himself.

Merry Christmas to you all. I trust that this Christmas you do know Him and that He has the proper place in your heart and life. If not--I assure you He is ready and waiting to know you and to take His place in your heart and life!

With much love,


Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Just a little Christmas note...

Tonight was to be my Christmas memories and dreams but I'll be doing that in the next night or two. Tonight I'm too tired from creating them!
It's been a good day. I have an ice cream bucket almost full of cookies that I'm baking each day to lay back for gifts for the neighbors, our postlady, the UPS man, etc. The first batch was Chocolate Brownie cookies, (new recipe) and they were yummy. Then tonight I made Snickerdoodles but before I rolled them in cinnamon sugar I rolled half of them in red sugar and half in green. They turned out so pretty!
Tomorrow's cookies are going to be sugar cookies cut in the shape of snowflakes and then iced with a thin white glaze and then decorated on the top with designs to make them look delicate and then maybe a little sprinkle of powdered sugar!
I'm also trying to work on bibs with sleeves in them (to go over church dresses) for Halle and Macey. Not getting a lot done on those with school work and housework going on here! We're still in the recovery stage from a trip to Idaho!
The house looks so Christmasy with the village on the buffet all lit up in white and with a snowy border on the mirror and silver bells hanging off of the top of the mirror. The pocket calendar is hung in the hall and has a little treat each morning for the kids.
Then in the kitchen the Hoosier cabinet is full of goodies from Christmas past, the breakfast bar has my miniature Christmas stove and my Jan Karon snowman on it, the tree is in full dress in the living room and the nativity set is all ready for Mary and Joseph to begin their journey from Nazareth (by the front door) to Bethlehem (on the piano). The wise men are over on the antique sewing machine on the other side of the living room ready to begin their long journey too.
We have Bethlehem on the piano and on the left side are the shepherds watching their flocks by night with little campfires flickering. On the right side is the stable complete with animals, a Roman guard (who will be heading to Nazareth to leave a note on Mary and Joseph's door tomorrow) and a merchant kneeling down in front of the stable selling his wares. There is a palm tree by the stable.
Today Asher knocked the palm tree over while messing with the lights and it almost knocked the merchant off of the piano. I said, "In Bethlehem news today....we had a large storm (named Asher) come through our city today knocking a palm tree over. Almost killed in the incident was a local merchant...." The kids got a kick out of that!
It smells like Christmas here, it looks like Christmas here, it sounds like Christmas here, (we've been trying out lots of cd's today) and the final joy was that the kids said they are SOOO in the Christmas mood. Yeah!!! I'm so excited--I LOVE Christmas!

Monday, December 7, 2009

Home again, home again....

Well, this is going to be the first of a two about our busy, busy life around here the last month or so and then another about of the most wonderful times of our year!
We just returned from a visit to Idaho to see Nevin and Jennibeth and their children. The first week we had a missions conference at their church and the second week we played! SOOOOO fun! The only bad part of the whole trip was the good-byes.
I would put pictures on here but I haven't downloaded the pictures from the camera and my hubby is gone right now with the camera!
What a wonderful, wonderful trip. Seeing the church growing both physically and spiritually, seeing the faithful labor of Nevin and Jennibeth bringing fruit in Bonner's Ferry, seeing my grandbabies growing up and growing sweeter! Being with my daughter-in-law in her lovely home and enjoying the wonderful kindred spirit and fellowship we share.
Some of my favorite memories....telling the children the classic story "Moonfleet" each night. It has pirates in it and I'd promised them a pirate story when I came this time (it's usually Sam the Cowboy [made up by grandma] and The Jungle Doctor stories.) Well, I never dreamed it would scare the boys but Braden had trouble a couple nights and was afraid that when he looked down from the bunkbed he would be seeing the tunnel that went under the crypt at the church where Blackbeard was in his coffin. (Make you want to read it?) I told the boys that if they wanted me to stop I would but it had a very good lesson in the story about not thinking things and money could make you happy. They wanted me to continue the story. I told them if anyone got scared to come and get me in the night instead of waking their parents up. (I didn't want dad and mom upset with grandma!)
One night our bedroom door burst open and Colton was standing there with his eyes as big as saucers saying he was scared. (The night John Trenchard was lowered into the well in a bucket and the turnkey tried to kill him because of the huge diamond he found in the wall of the well.)
I asked him if he wanted me to come lay with him for a while and he said yes. When we got to the room it was his night to be on the bunk bed. I told him I couldn't crawl up there so I'd just lay on the floor. He agreed and crawled up on the bunk bed. While I'm laying there Asher is mumbling non-words in his sleep and Braden is letting a kind of happy sigh out with each breath. I thought, "No wonder the kid can't sleep, this is a noisy room!"
Finally it sounded like Colton's breathing was getting very relaxed and even and I stood up to sneak out of the room. He whispered right away, "Grandma, did you hear Asher?" with a giggle. I said, "I sure did. Are you going to be all right now?" He said yes, and I headed back to my room telling myself that next visit I think I would tell a little less stimulating story!
I love the memories of playing games in the evening with the family at the kitchen table, watching the snow out the living room windows, capturing deer on my camera in the neighbors yard while the guys are out hunting and can't seem to get one, (I made sure they knew I'd "shot" five deer while they were gone!) encouraging little Adalyn to take more steps so I could take some of the credit later for teaching her to walk, baking cookies with my grandsons, (we had icing and sprinkles spread liberally through Jennibeth's kitchen), and our wonderful Thanksgiving Day.
I enjoyed the day before Thanksgiving as much as I did the actual day. Jennibeth, Cierra and I all cooked together and had a wonderful day of fellowship. We made Swiss Medley, Sweet Potato Casserole, hot rolls, Pumpkin Roll, Pumpkin Cheesecake, Chess Pie, and Peanut Butter Pie to go with the turkey, dressing, and mashed potatoes we were fixing on Thanksgiving Day. I know we had more but I can't remember it!
Our Thanksgiving Day was blessed and wonderful. The kids and I made turkey placecards to sit beside their plates and I made a poster board turkey for them to play games with after we ate.
First we threw beanie balls on Mr. Turkey as he was laying on the floor and they got points if they landed on a special feather, his beard, or his heart. Then we hung him up and they had to try to pin a beard on him and a heart on his heart. FUN! We had several other games we played. Kids are SO much fun and so much of a blessing. My husband says I enjoy them so much because I'm still so much of a kid myself. Might be something to that so I won't argue the point.
We went to a local Amish coffeehouse called "The Bread Basket" two times--once to enjoy their huge cinnamon rolls and donuts with our coffee and then once for lunch. Such wonderful memories of sitting around a table laughing, eating and talking.
Going home was so hard. You could sense the dread the day before we left. We'd agreed not to talk about it but even the children seemed to have a mood that was toned down. Saying good-bye is not easy--especially when you see them so little. However, I'd rather have my children far, far away and living in God's perfect will then in my backyard and out of His will. The safest place in the world for our children is in His will.
The last two years have been very traumatic years for our family. We had my illness that stopped life cold for me for some time, (so much time spent in doctor's offices, the trips to Cleveland Clinic, and learning to adjust to the lifestyle and diet changes), we had Gary's mother developing brain cancer, we had Alicia's paralysis, we had the TVA ash spill which not only touched our life but the church's life and the community, (we had to make major decisions as a church and as a family) we had my dad's Alzheimer's developing into a deeper stage, and many other additional things that I can't go into. Not an easy year for us emotionally.
However, we also had so very, very much to be thankful for. I'm thankful for grown children that are serving the Lord, I'm thankful for the wonderful, mature, wise husband that the Lord has blessed me with, I'm thankful that I am alive in spite of my medical problems, I'm thankful for my at-home children that bless my life daily, I'm thankful for the new additions to our family this year. (Welcome Evan Michael Lott, Elisha Maclaren Reagan, [Alicia, I don't think I spelled that right, did I?], and Peyton Levi Neal)
I'm thankful for Swan Pond Baptist Church and the faithful people God has given us. Right now we're working at passing out 5000 John-Romans with a special cover designed for us using the verse "Beauty for Ashes" to let our community we are still here. My husband has met several people on visitation who seem surprised we are still in existence!
Our church people have been so kind and patient through our many trials of the last two years.
I don't take that for granted. I think it shows the level of the spiritual maturity of our people.
I'm thankful for Brother Allen Johnson and the wonderful, wonderful job he's doing at leading the Wings Ministry. The conference was a breath of fresh air for me spiritually this year and had that same wonderful spirit it's always had. I'm thankful for the blessing Allen and Dema and their children are in our church.
I'm thankful for my dad's wife Lela and her daughter Esther and the blessing they are in caring for my precious dad. (and in our church) I'm thankful to have them at my dinner table each Sunday. I feel like God has given me a little love pat by letting me have my dad sitting at my table for Sunday dinner each week.
I'm thankful for my daughter Alicia's faith and courage in facing her sudden paralysis. I'm thankful to the Lord for giving her such a wonderful husband in Jimmy and for her children's elasticity in adjusting to their mother in a wheelchair. What a blessing they are to their grandma! How good it has been to watch the outpouring of people's love for her.
I'm thankful for the Lord opening heaven's windows again for Brian and Niki and bringing little Evan into their life. So many times I prayed the verse "a joyful mother of children" and asked the Lord to be sure and make that plural in my daughter's life. He did it so quickly He actually caught my by surprise. Isn't the Lord wonderful? "Now, Lord, just keep dropping them down from heaven please! " I've often reminded the Lord that Brian would be faithful to raise his children for the Lord after reading the verse, "For I know him that he will command his children and his household after him, and they shall keep the way of the Lord, to do justice and judgment; that the Lord may bring upon Abraham that which he hath spoken of him." (Gen. 18:19) I love going through my Bible where I've written B/N for Brian and Niki and have my symbol for prayer beside it and write down Halle Simone and Evan Michael's names there with their birth dates to show the prayer has been answered!
I could go on and on....the Lord is good--in the good days and in the difficult days. I am thankful that His salvation is not just for eternity for He is the Savior of "right now" and will faithfully deliver me from every sin I struggle with when I rely on Him and not myself.
Well, this is part one. It's late and we have school tomorrow, so I'll be back with my Christmas thoughts that are brewing tomorrow. I pray that your eyes are on Him--the author and the finisher of our faith. I pray that this season of Thanksgiving and Christmas are seasons of joy, anticipation and child-like faith in your life. Till tomorrow...

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

This Week's Focus....Physical/Spiritual Health

This week our girls class is focusing on two things in our physical fitness. In the area of nutrition we're trying to 1)cut back 500 calories per day if we need to lose some weight. If they don't need to lose weight we are working on making better choices for snacks. Choosing an apple with some peanut butter on it or a piece of fruit rather than an oatmeal cake, for example.
I've equipped our Health Shack in Sunday School with healthy snacks to give them some ideas.
In the area of exercise we're working on strength training at least two days per week. This means finding an exercise program. We're using a book by Kathy Smith called Fitness Makeover. It's my favorite strength training book because it only requires light and medium weights and a chair! Each week it focuses on a different area of the body.
You also can become a member (it's free) on and they will give you your own personalized strenth training program that you can do at home with no more than weights if that's what you want. (I don't know if this will let you see my fitness schedule but if not just go to and do some reading!)
In our spiritual areas we are working on not missing a time of daily Bible reading and prayer every day of the week. We are also working on giving it a specific time in our day just like we would a meal, a show on TV we never miss or a habit we have like brushing our teeth and showering. We are looking for time that we're wasting or misusing to find time to spend with the Lord.
These are basics, but so many of us have never made those basic important things a part of our life that is as sure as getting up each day. It takes 21 days to build a habit and three days to break it! Let's build new and healthy habits!

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Spiritual/Physical Fitness

Since I just posted about my Sunday School class and since it's Saturday night how about a peek (and an invitation) to join us in our next quarter's theme?
This quarter we've decided to work on our physical fitness and our spiritual fitness. Right now in our Sunday School class we're taking an exam to see where we're at in our health in these two areas! Each week we're going to focus on a different aspect of each one of these areas.
Our bulletin board has a triangle on it with the word "nutrition" on one side, the word "exercise" on the second side and the word "cleanliness" on the third side. Can you guess where this is going? The bulletin board is divided in half at the top with the word "Physical" on the left and the word "Spiritual" on the right. I will be adding the areas we're working on as we get to them. This might take longer than a quarter before it's over!
We're going to cover spiritual nutrition and physical nutrition, spiritual exercise and physical exercise, spiritual cleanliness and physical cleanliness.
Right now we're hitting the basics. We're trying to encourage each girl to read her Bible each and every day. I'm sending home a calendar with suggested Bible reading on each day of the month. We're working toward developing a prayer journal or prayer list and encourage the girls to set aside a specific time each day to spend with the Lord.
This week our physical focus is on beginning to do strength training for at least two days a week and preferably three. I thoroughly enjoy strength training and do not enjoy the aerobic! So, I've told the girls I'm working on me right along with them! I've given them a sheet of paper with their own workout that requires only a chair, some weights, (which could be cans of soup!) and a willingness to do the workout. NO expensive gym membership required!
We're also focusing on wasted calories this week and trying to cut our calorie intake down just 500 calories a day if we have a weight problem. That will allow us to lose 1 lb. this week! An example I gave them is that a Big Mac is 590 calories but a 6-piece McNugget is 290. You just saved 300 calories by making a better choice. A Caramel sundae is 360 calories at McDonald's and their low fat ice cream cone is 150 calories. There's 110 calories saved with a right decision made.
How about you? Would you like to join my girls in taking a step forward both physically and spiritually?
May I encourage you to sit down and make a list of what regularly makes you feel guilty both in the physical and spiritual world. Then let's work together to take some steps forward irregardless of how small they may seem.
What's on your list?
  • Being faithful in prayer or Bible reading?
  • Keeping your priorities straight?
  • Your tongue (with your hubby or children)
  • Eating a healthier diet
  • Your bedtime/rising time
  • Exercising for a healthy body

Make a note on how you can change what you don't like. Don't make it monumental. Make it workable. For example:

  • Prayer and Bible reading- 3:00-4:00 p.m. daily. (or what works with my personal schedule)
  • Focus this week on meeting hubbies needs/wants before others.
  • Memorize a verse on tongue control this week. Put verse in kitchen window where I see it!
  • Make a better snack decision at least three times this week.
  • Go to bed 15 minutes earlier/get up 15 minutes earlier.
  • Strength train 2 times this week.

Ask the Lord to remind you. Put a note in your Bible or on your bathroom mirror with your goals. My main excuse for not exercising is that I don't have time. I asked myself when I had any extra time to do it. The first thing I thought of was our one hour lunch break. So I recruited my kids to exercise with me. They love it! (John actually pesters me if I hold off one day because of phone calls or company.)

I hope you're able to move up a notch in your spiritual life. My girls and I would like hearing from anyone that has decided to join us in our journey! Together always makes the journey easier!

Sunday, September 6, 2009

Camp Id-Ra-Ha-Je....

One of the greatest loves the Lord has blessed me with is the love of children. I've always loved mothering them, teaching them, mentoring them. I loved Jr. Church when I was needed there and I love my Sunday School class I have now.

My Sunday School class is made up of girls from ages 9-17. ( This is one of the necessities of a small church-we have lots of kids and not too many teachers!) We call ourselves "The King's Daughters". I feel very close to my girls. About 80% of my class comes in on the vans and come from broken homes. I marvel at these girls faithfulness in spite of having no one to wake them up and tell them to get ready for church. They rarely miss. Some of them have been with us since they were about 5 years of age.

This summer we had a camp theme. With the help of my dear sister Esther we transformed our Sunday School room into camp.

I took cardboard refrigerator boxes and made a false cabin front and taped it to the end of our tables. The girls were able to name their cabins after we divided them up. One cabin called themselves Joyful Gems and the other The King's Daughters. (wonder where they got that name?)

I took another table and made a roof and sides over it (with the help of white paint and refrigerator boxes) and turned it into the canteen. The table was covered with chips, pop, candy bars, and cokes and each one of them were given different points values.

Another table became our craft table. Outside the door a cardboard sign pointed to our door and said, "Camp Id-Ra-Ha-Je" with an arrow.

The bulletin board was transformed into a scene with a mountain in the center, two cabins at the bottom on each side of the mountain and pictures of our girls heading up the path to the top of the mountain.

In my class the girls receive points for each of the following:

  • Present-50 points

  • Bible - 25 points

  • Offering- 25 points

  • Verse memorized- 50-100 points (extra if you know it when you walk in the door)

  • Visitor-500 points

  • Bible papers filled out-100 points per paper

  • Bible reading chart filled out and returned-100 points

Each girl moved up the mountain as her points increased. The total points of each cabin were put on the top of the board on each side above their cabins.

The girls are given individual folders with a cabin glued to the front that has an attendance chart on it. They mark their own points (with Esther right there to help) and inside they keep their papers and Bible reading charts. Also inside they have an empty sandwich bag stapled to their folder. As they earn points they are given paper money to spend at the canteen. Each item in the canteen is marked with a point value. They run from 50 points for tiny candy bars to 500 points for the giant candy bar. Chips, theatre candy and pop are in between that. Based on how much they do they are able to spend money in the canteen at the end of class!

Sunday mornings were divided into careful time slots. Attendance-10 minutes. Announcements- 5 minutes Game and song time-10-15 minutes Lesson-15 minutes Canteen-5 minutes

Some mornings we had song contests, some mornings crafts, some morning we would go across the hall and play a cabin against cabin game of air hockey. We made up a camp song from our camp name -I'd-Ra-Ha-Je. (Have you figured out that it's the beginning letters of the song, "I'd Rather Have Jesus"? Esther came up with the name and I love it!

Here's our song to the tune of Jesus Loves Me!

I'd-Ra-Ha-Je that's my camp!

Come and join; you'll be a champ!

Learn of Jesus God's own Son,

Crafts and Games, come have some fun!


Camp I'd-Ra-Ha-Je (rah!)

Camp I'd-Ra-Ha-Je (rah!)

Camp I'd-Ra-Ha-Je (rah!)

The Camp that we all love!

We've had contests to see which cabin can sing it the loudest and they've made me laugh with their enthusiasm. I've watched the girls bring lots of visitors this quarter. We've had new girls that don't know the Lord as their Savior in attendance several times this quarter. It is good to see my girls trying to learn their verses.

Today when I announced that this was the last Sunday of our camp theme I was met with groans. You know it's a success when they don't want it to end. I assured them that they had nothing to fear--Sunday School class is about to become a fitness center! The canteen will now be a health shack, because we're about to start a new theme---"The Fitness Center"....can you imagine where I'm headed with this one?

Children always amaze me at how much they can learn when you come along side and encourage them, excite them and give them your full attention. I am counting on seeing these girls grow up and do great things for the Lord. I tell them often that I want everyone of them at my table at the marriage supper of the Lamb. Let's give it our all as we minister--rather it's the nursery or a Sunday School class. It doesn't take much money--just a willingness to invest our hearts and lives into theirs!

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Breakfast time on the homeschool range...

This family is a family of breakfast eaters. My husband is of the firm opinion that if a man doesn't eat breakfast it's because a female in the family trained him out of it. He (and almost all our children) wake up with food on their mind.

During the summer no one is sitting at the table ready to eat at 8:00 a.m. However, once school starts I wants breakfast cleaned up and forgotten by 8:30 a.m. so we can get the business of the day in full swing.

Some of the menu ideas we like are:

  • Ham, Sausage or Bacon with fried eggs and bread of some kind. (toast, pancakes, waffles, muffins, sweet rolls or biscuits.

  • Sausage gravy and biscuits

  • English muffins with egg, meat of some kind and cheese made into a sandwich

  • A big skillet of scrambled eggs topped with cheese and served with Cinnamon Raisin Biscuits

  • Omelettes made to order

  • Quiche

  • Overnight Breakfast casserole

  • French toast

If you make breakfast you know how long it takes to make waffles or muffins or coffee cake in the morning. Here are a few of the things I do to make shortcuts and not have to get up at 4:00 a.m. :) to have a good breakfast for the family.

  • Keep ziplock bags full of diced peppers in your freezer and a ziplock bag full of diced onion in the fridge. When you're making omelettes it's just as simple as getting the bags out and sprinkling what you want on each person's omelette.

  • Have all the items for quiche ready to go the night before where you just put them in the pie shell and stick it in the oven at the right time.

  • Make the cinnamon rolls from Pioneer woman's site (they're wonderful) and keep them in your freezer. The night before set them out to thaw and the next morning warm them in the oven. (It makes 7 round pans of them!) Any yeast bread will do fine being frozen ahead of time. (Have I mentioned my all time favorite sweet bread called Cream Cheese Braids?

  • When you make biscuits double or triple your recipe and freeze the extra ones. Then use them just like the ones you buy at WalMart and pay too much money for!

  • Prefry your sausage for the sausage gravy and stick it in a freezer cup for when you need it. Put it in the fridge the night before and your good to go!

  • Make up powdered milk and stick it in the fridge for cooking. I use it for gravies too.

  • Make a double batch of waffles (just keep baking them during breakfast) and put the extras in gallon freezer bags. Then on a busy day you can just toast the frozen ones! (and don't forget to do all kinds of varieties with the waffles. Our last ones had banana, nuts and cinnamon in them.....mmmm.

Breakfast is brain food. Starting the day with a good meal is a good habit to get to develop for the family. It also starts the day around the table together. It makes good memories for the children. (Later they'll realize how special this really was.)

With fall coming I'm already pulling out the recipes for Pumpkin Drop Doughnuts, Monkey Bread, Apple Cinnamon Rolls and other fall favorites. Start a breakfast file in your cookbook today!

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Back to School!

This is our first week back to school but preparation for going back to school begins in April/May for the Neal household. ( We purchase our curriculum at the end of the school year! :) Then I do my best to concentrate on summer activities until about a week or two before time for the new official school year.
About the first of August I begin thinking about school again and it shows up in my prayer journals. This year the first entry was on June 17th. I think the reason for that is because Asher chose to do some of his senior year's schoolwork during the summer.
I remember when the Lord began dealing with me about our children's training. As I would read the verses in Deuteronomy that the Christian schools were using I was troubled because it didn't give the priests the responsibility to teach and train the children. The responsibility was laid squarely on the shoulders of the parents. The second thing that bothered me was that more and more Christian women were leaving their homes to work in the Christian school. As a young wife and mother the Lord had showed me very clearly that my ministry was to have my home as its core.
Please remember as I'm giving you our personal testimony that homeschooling was almost unheard of when the Lord began dealing with us about it. We were truly entering an area that very few people were brave enough to approach.
My husband and I would discuss it and we both felt that it would be disloyal to our pastor and send a confusing message to the church if we pulled our children out of the school to be taught at home.
I began to seriously pray about it. In my mind we needed to do it and do it now because time was slipping away. However, the Lord always knows what's best and the principle of honoring authority kept me from taking a position of authority over the Lord, my husband, and my pastor.
The real crisis for me came when it was time to send the last of our four children to the Christian school. I felt like I was going to be desolate staying at home with an empty house while my husband was at the Christian school with everything that was precious to me--my entire family. I began to waver on my conviction of the woman being a "keeper at home" (with the emphasis on the word "at") and listening to one older woman's comment that "the Christian school was simply an extension of her home".
It seemed everyone at our church assumed that when Nevin went to Christian school his mother would be there too joining the work force. I approached my husband with the idea that the school was just an extension of the home and got a strong reaction! He let me know that his conviction hadn't changed and I wouldn't be going anywhere!
Now during this entire time the Lord had been working. I truly didn't see any of it till I was looking back at it. The year that Nathan was supposed to go to Christian school our pastor announced that we were going to have to teach our own kindergarten age children at home. The woman that was supposed to teach had to stay home and care for her dying mother. So, we ordered the curriculum from the school and I taught him kindergarten at home!
The next year we had the same situation and I taught Nevin kindergarten at home. I absolutely loved every moment of it.
Then God called my husband into the pastorate and he began actively seeking where the Lord wanted him. When he took his first pastorate they had just closed their Christian school and he let them know we would be homeschooling. We offered to help anyone else that was interested in doing it. At that pastorate we ended up with a large group of homeschoolers!
Once I began teaching all four children at home I realized how merciful the Lord was to me to let me start out with one student, then two students and then up to four. His timing was so perfect, and mine so flawed. (This all took place over a period of about five years.)
Early on I asked the Lord to give me verses for our homeschool and He gave me II Peter 1: 5-8. That portion of Scripture taught me one of the most important lessons in teaching and training children--that teaching facts (knowledge) is useless if you haven't first taught your child that the Bible is the final authority in our lives (faith) and that character is more important than lessons. (virtue) I have used that as a pillar in teaching our children.
Another valuable lesson the Lord taught me was that just pulling my children out of the world system wasn't going to automatically give me godly children. I realized that based on the depravity of man my children had the love of the world built into them. Therefore, if I thought pulling my child out of the world was going to take the world out of my child I was sadly misled. My motivation for pulling my child away from the world system was so that the still, small voice of the Holy Spirit could be heard over the distractions and lures that the world has. That child had a choice to make but I wanted to get them in an environment where they could hear the Holy Spirit and have an opportunity to make a choice. Satan is a master at sending distractions, so I wanted to remove as many of them as I could!
I have met some parents who have been deeply disappointed when they thought having the perfect environment would create a perfectly spiritual child. Sometimes I've watched them even pull themselves into a shell and out of the local church thinking that would help. It doesn't.
The goal is to send those children into the world as glowing arrows to do the work that the Lord has for them. (Ps. 127:4) The home is the boot camp for this. Sending children into the arena before they've become trained and mature is like throwing a kitten into a pack of grown dogs and expecting it to come out the champ. My prayer for each of my children is that they will walk in obedience to the Lord in being 1) Saved 2) Surrendered 3) Submitted 4) Separated unto the Lord from the world 5) Servants 6) Soldiers.
Over the years the Lord has given me many verses concerning my children. Here are a few:
I. Seek the Lord for wisdom and the right way for our little ones. Fast and pray over them. They are so precious. (Ezra 8:21)
2) Fight for their spiritual welfare for all your worth. Remember who your Captain is so you're not afraid. (Nehemiah 4:14)
3) Three things that we must teach our children and grandchildren: A. the praises of the Lord B. His strength C. His wonderful works. (Psalms 78:4)
4) Letting the Lord keep the "strange children" out of our lives will allow our children to be healthier spiritually and "polished" as He wants them. (Psalms 144:11,12 ) *This is a cause-and-effect passage.
5) The Lord wants to fight for my children! (Isa. 49:25)
6) The bottom line teaching has to be done by the Lord Himself to get the right results. (Isa. 54:13)
7) I must set a "watch" and cry to the Lord even in the night for my children. (Lam. 2:19)
8) And here's my new one. This is a direct answer from the Lord with one of my biggest battles with my flesh--impatience and irritation. (I am in my 50's!) "the sweetness of the lips increaseth learning." Prov. 16:21b. Oh, I pray the Lord brings that one to mind on a regular basis when I need it!
That's not all my verses but some of the ones that are precious to me after over 20 years of homeschooling. The Lord's been good to me and given me "extra blessings" through adoption. I'll be 62 when my homeschool journey ends. But really it won't end there...I have 17 grandbabies you know!
As we head back into the homeschooling year I am reminded that we begin homeschooling when they are born. When I see someone with a lack of confidence I remind them that they are the one that taught there child to talk, eat, and encouraged them in their first steps. They are the one who potty trained the little one and has already taught them so many vital life skills.
Many years ago others taught me that curriculum is simply a tool and that a dedicated and committed teacher can learn right along with the child if they are willing to humble themselves and do it! My children have taught me as much as I have ever taught them!
I always grab a few hand-picked articles or books to get my homeschool engine up and revving at this time of the year. Some to encourage me and motivate me and some to remind me that God's schooling is the best.
I pray that each of you that are beginning a new year will be able to do it with joy and expectancy. I pray that those whom the Lord is dealing with will be patient and obey Him on His time-table. I pray that each of us no matter where we are in our journey will dedicate ourselves to being a tool in the Master's hand to see our children won to Christ heart and soul. God bless every mother and father who are committed to teaching and training their children for Him.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

The Joy of Children...

It's almost time for school to begin again at the Neal household and I can feel myself gearing up for the new year. Before I get into school mode though I want to take my mind back over the time I spent with my grandchildren recently. Children are one of the delights of my life and spending time with grandchildren is one of the joys of getting older!

I just got to spend time at Jimmy and Alicia's helping her after the birth of their sixth child--Elisha. Because of medical complications Alicia was in the hospital eight days and my stay was a little longer than usual. That just gave me more time to be around and get to know their children.

I still have three of my own at home and the two youngest went with me. They thoroughly enjoyed time with family as much as I did.

After I came home I jotted down things that my grandchildren had taught me while I was with them. I already knew each of these things but being by myself with a large group of kids (8 part of the time and 9 when I had Brian and Niki's Halle) reminded me of things that you sometimes forget.

One of the first things that I was reminded of was that children love to work if it is at your side. The younger they are the more important this is. If you send a 3 year old alone in their room to clean it up they are miserable but if you go in the room with them and say, "Well, let's see if we can make this place pretty!" they're happy to do it with you.

At the beginning of the week the kids and I talked about how God made a family a team and I gave them each their part of the team"work". Briley, Cierra and I got putting a meal on the table and cleaning it up down to a science by the end of the week. One of the girls set the napkins and silverware on and the other one set the plates and the cups. I did the food. At the end of the meal one of them cleared the table and the other one swept the floor while I washed dishes.

One day Audrey (who is 3) wanted to do her part so I handed her a dishrag and told her she could scrub down the benches. She wanted to be in on the work and I thought that was great! What amazed me was how good a job she did and how thorough she was. She even washed down the lower part of the benches.

If I'd sent her in there to do the job alone she would have been miserable. But because we were all working together and laughing and talking she wanted to be a part of it.

Another reminder that came back to me was that side-by-side time with children makes precious memories. So many times we think that we have to spend a lot of money or do something really big for children to be happy but when I think of my precious childhood memories it's not the big events but the personal time I spent with my grandparents. Things like my grandfather peeling apples and feeding them to us as he told stories. I remember baking with my grandmother and sitting at the table with her after that just talking.

Because I was doing a lot of meal preparation I made sure the kids were involved in it with me. Because there were lots of children I had Helper #1 (my main helper) and then they had helpers.

(#2, #3, etc.) The children learned to break eggs, flip pancakes, etc. and I don't know about them but I sure enjoyed our time together. Audrey and I made up a new little song for flipping pancakes and Isaiah and I had a wonderful heart-to-heart talk while washing dishes. I hope their memories are as sweet as mine.

Being with the kids reminded me that children are so easily motivated. At the beginning of the stay it was almost overwhelming to think of fixing three meals and a snack, doing laundry, keeping the house clean and making it to church with my brood I was watching! I am definitely feeling all of my 54 years since my illness last year. I knew I was going to have to enlist the children's help!

I talked to them about having a "We-Can-Do-It Club" to help us through this time with their mama's illness. (See Alicia's blog- We made up a chore sheet of morning, afternoon and evening chores and I put them in a notebook. It was so cute watching Caleb faithfully check his sheet each morning to make sure he'd done all his work!

I set up a point system (good and bad) and monitored them for incentive, attitude, willingness, obedience, etc. Nine bad points in a day required a talk with dad when he got home (no one had to have that, by the way!) but the good points went toward a reward when I left. The children amazed me with their desire to get good points and avoid bad ones.

Isaiah taught me a lesson in how much children can understand if we communicate with them at their own level. He'd had a day with some problems and was really frustrated. His frustration was coming out! At the end of the day I got alone with him and explained to him what I'd seen and gave him some thoughts on how he could keep from being so frustrated. As we were walking up the driveway to the house he slipped his hand in mine. I could tell he was just happy I understood and had talked to him. Later, when he got really frustrated again he came in with a chair where I was doing dishes and said, "I decided instead of getting mad I'd just come in here and help you." And that made both of us happy!

Another reminder was how children that have routine and schedule in their life are contented children. I learned this early in my mothering. Children like to know what's happening next and that they can count on it! I've had kids get very upset with me when we ate a brunch and missed a meal in their day.

Children fall into routine so smoothly. Breakfast at a certain time, lunch at a certain time, rest time, supper, bedtime snack. It is time to.... When they have a pattern and routine it creates a feeling of safety. Knowing where things go and what is expected of them each time will be the same--all that creates a happy child.

Each night I read out of a book called "Tucket's Travels" to the children. I think every single child except the two little ones asked me some time during the day--"Grandma, we are going to read tonight aren't we?" Just another reminder that children like a pattern to their lives.

Last of all, (but not least--I could name many more) I was reminded that a little full attention given to a child goes a long way. After supper I would go outside and watch the children play. I would get a cup of coffee and sit on the glider and watch them skate, ride bikes and play on the swing set. The truth was I was so tired I couldn't do anything else!

If I got up to go get more coffee one of them would say, "Grandma, where are you going? You're not going in, are you?"

I enjoyed the "Watch this Grandma." "Look at what I can do!"

It didn't take any energy, just a willingness to sit there and watch them.

What a time I had with the children. How wonderful to watch these children developing and their personalities blooming. Each one so different and so precious.

Briley--creative, a leader, always willing to help Grandma find her way in the Reagan household! Briley deserves a crown for being the wonderful big sister and little homemaker that she is!

Caleb- the artist, sensitive and detailed, painfully honest about himself whenever I asked him a question. Caleb's earnest desire to do what is right and to do it right is a joy.

Isaiah- cheerful, quick-witted, third born that has much to say if you stop and talk to him. He was a delight to watch as he went from his full military outfit to a cowboy with all the "fixins". Kept me laughing and kept me company at times when all the other kids were playing.

Audrey- My bedmate at night, my fellow cook, (her first question is "Grandma can we cook together?" when we talk on the phone), she is patient and kind. (and spunky too!:)

Macey- The most pleasant toddler I can ever remember, quick and willing to obey and gave me a baby to love on. I enjoyed having a little one to get up and check on in the night to make sure she was covered and pat her little head.
Elisha- I look forward to getting to know you!

Reagan babies--thank you for being patient with your grandma and for being such a wonderful blessing in my life! I enjoyed our walks to the soda fountain, reading together, bedtime snacks, watching you work so hard at earning points and trying to please me, making and eating lots of cookies, and everything else we did together during my stay. Thanks for reminding me how wonderful children are in our lives!

Sunday, August 9, 2009

Revival Week...

I just got back from about 10 days with my daughter, her husband and 6 children. We're all rejoicing over the safe birth of Elisha Maclaren who weighed in at 8 lbs! During those 10 days my oldest daughter Niki and her husband Brian brought home their newly adopted son, Evan Michael. He weighed in at a mere 4 lb. and 11 oz!
I feel so blessed by the Lord. We now have 17 grandchildren! Those grandbabies are a joy all in themselves.
Alicia needed mom more than ever with this baby because of her paralysis that hit her on March 12th of this year. She ended up having a C-section with several complications. Her hospital stay was 8 days and she had to come home to a hospital bed and home health care. That wasn't what we had all hoped and prayed for but the Lord knows and we trust Him completely.
I thought I was doing pretty good with keeping up with a houseful of little ones, but when I came home the adrenalin must have cooled off and I felt like I could sleep for a week! Our revival was beginning on Sunday and my flesh was dreading the activity level of a revival week.
However, the Lord took care of that by just one day of being under some good preaching. This morning was especially good and Brother Donnie was preaching on "I Remember" and going over things that Christians need to take back that we have given up.
One of his points was "I Remember when the Lord's Day was the Lord's. He talked about how at one time in America Sunday belonged to the Lord and it was a holy-day in our lives not a holiday. He mentioned the "blue law" being in place.
My mind went back to when I was a girl and nothing was open on a Sunday. If you'd forgotten something at the grocery or hadn't filled the gas tank you were just out of luck. Everything was closed. I even remember in the small towns of Indiana when I was a girl every business closed on Wednesday at noon so the people who worked could be in prayer meeting on Wednesday night.
We've come a long, long way from that. Instead of Sunday being the day we put on our best and go to the house of the Lord we find people at WalMart or sporting events or eating at their favorite restaurant/bar.
I think we need to ask ourselves what we want our children to remember. At our house we have a large Sunday dinner. I want my children to remember coming home from church and walking into a house with the wonderful smell of a delicious meal. I want them to remember a table full of people talking about the message and what happened at church that morning. I want them to remember having preachers and missionaries around our Sunday dinner table.
I want our children to remember that Sunday was a day that we were in the house of God at the appointed times and that it was a joy to be there--not a burden to complain about. As more and more churches are making it "convenient" and "comfortable" for the people by shifting times and schedules so that people can serve other "gods" it only makes sense that the professing Christian appears more and more worldly and shallow.
I want our children to remember that Christ had the preeminince in our household and that everything on the schedule was pushed out of the way to see to it that we never forsook the assembling of ourselves together outside of a real emergency.
This week we took our children to the Creation Museum in Cincinnati as we came home from our daughter's house. There is a quote there on the wall that says this: "If I profess with the loudest voice and clearest exposition every portion of the truth of God except precisely that little point which the world and the devil are at the moment attacking, I am not confessing Christ, however boldly I may be professing Christ. Where the battle rages, there the loyalty of the soldier is proved, and to be steady on all the battlefield besides is merely flight and disgrace if he flinches at that point." -Martin Luther
From the first time I read that quote it has made a great impact on me. If we're going to have revival we must take back what we've given away and we must take a stand on the issues of our day without apology or intimidation.
For myself, today was a day of renewed commitment to the Lord to not lower the flag on keeping Sunday a day totally set aside for the Lord. It's the least I can do after what He's done for me.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Asher and Mom's Cheesecake Creation....

Yesterday was our son Asher's 18th birthday. It's almost impossible to believe that it was 18 years ago we brought this tiny baby home from the hospital and now he's a big, strapping young man.

We always let the kids pick what dessert (cake or anything else they want) for their birthday. Asher almost always chooses a cheesecake. He and I both love cheesecake and on other birthdays we have made Reece Cup Cheesecake, Chocolate Truffle Cheesecake, and Turtle Cheesecake. This year he couldn't decide what sounded good so I suggested he "design" his own. We discussed several different ideas and then he decided on my making a cheesecake that was a copy of a Zero candy bar.

So we decided on a cheesecake with a chocolate crust, a nice light chocolate inside and a white chocolate ganache on top with nuts sprinkled on it. I dug out several favorite cheesecake recipes and here's what we ended up with!

The result was absolutely delicious. It didn't last long around here because we had a birthday dinner for Asher last night and everyone ate on the cheesecake after supper.

Our birthday menu was made entirely by Asher. I have to say he did a good job on his dinner choices. We had barbequed chicken, cucumber salads (one creamy and one in vinegar), two different pasta salads, green beans, carrots, and fresh-from-the-garden corn on the cob. For bread I made piping hot biscuits served with butter and homemade jams. For dessert, it was Zero Bar Cheesecake by Asher and mom and watermelon. It was a feast fit for a--birthday boy!

We got Asher a new digital camera for his birthday. He is wanting to document his senior year in high school and make his own yearbook. Sounds fun to me!

I just want to stop right here and thank the Lord for giving us Asher. He's our first adopted child. We named him Asher because it means "how blessed" and we wanted that to stand for our blessing in the Lord giving him to us and us being a blessing to him in raising him.

It has turned out just that way. He received the Lord as his Savior at a very young age and has
always had a tender and sensitive conscience toward the Lord. What a blessing for us as parents.

Well, with all that said, how about my giving you the recipe for Asher's Zero Bar Cheesecake!


2 cups chocolate cookie crumbs

1/2 cup margarine (melted)

4 Tbsp. light brown sugar

pinch of salt

I use an oreo-type cookie and scrape out the filling and then finely crush (or use your food processor) the cookies till you have 2 cups of crumbs. It takes about two rows of the cookies and then I put all the extra stuffing into the cookies I have left and the kids eat double-or-triple stuffed oreos at their bedtime snack!

Grease your springform pan and then mix the crumbs, melted margarine, brown sugar and pinch of salt and press this mixture evenly in the bottom of your springform pan. Bake until set. Most recipes say 8-10 minutes but I've found this is too long. Bake it at 350 degrees and after you take the crust out of the oven turn your oven down to 325 degrees.


1/4 cup semisweet chocolate chips

1/4 cup whipping cream

3 pkgs. (8 oz.) cream cheese

1 cup sugar

1/3 cup baking cocoa

3 eggs

1 tsp vanilla

In a saucepan, melt chocolate chips over low heat. Stir them till smooth and then remove from heat and add the whipping cream. Set this aside.

In your mixing bowl, beat the cream cheese and sugar until blended well. Add the cocoa and beat well. Now add the eggs, (with mixer on low) one at a time. Blend just until combined. Stir in the vanilla and the reserved chocolate mixture. Stir just until blended. Pour this over the crust and bake for 45-50 minutes or just until the center is almost set.


1 bag of white chocolate chips (divided)

1/4 cup whipping cream

1 tsp. vanilla

2 oz. chopped nuts

For topping, melt 1 1/2 cups of the white chocolate chips in saucepan over low heat, stirring constantly and until smooth. Remove from heat and stir in the whipping cream and vanilla. Spread over baked filling, then take the rest of the chips and sprinkle over the topping. Sprinkle the chopped nuts over topping too. Refrigerate overnight. Carefully run a knife around the edge when ready to take sides off. (I dip the knife in hot water!) Just before serving you can put whipped cream on it for decoration if you want.


Our son Asher on his 18th birthday!

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Scheduling the week....

I live my life by lists. I don't think I would get one-third of what I accomplish to the finish line if I didn't have my open notebook on the end of my breakfast bar. It isn't fancy but it sure works!
I have typed out a daily agenda. Mine reads somthing like this:

Today's Chores

  • Prayer
  • Bible reading
  • Check calendar for appointments (with blank lines to write them in under this)
  • Unload dishwasher
  • Shine sink
  • Load dishwasher
  • What's for supper? (with lines below it to fill in)
  • Check all hot spots and put out fires (a Flylady term for cleaning up the areas that seem to be catch-alls)
  • 5 minutes room pick-ups LR K DR BR (living room, kitchen, dining room, bathrooms) I circle them after I run through them and pick up clutter and put it where it belongs)
  • Laudry for today (under this I have a line for the name of the load -[darks,lights,towels] and then the capital letters W D F P that stand for wash, dry, fold and put away. I circle these as I get them accomplished.)
  • Drink 64 oz. of water (then the numbers 1-8 so I can circle them as I drink them.)
  • Walk 15 minutes
  • Check trash and empty
  • Cook Supper
  • Write or sew for one hour
  • Zone work (I pick a room to concentrate on for the week and do the extras in--like wash down the cabinets, etc.)

To one side of the sheet I have a little sidebar area with my WEEKLY CLEANING in it. This includes:

  • Launder and change the sheets
  • Carry out all trash
  • Dust
  • Sweep
  • Mop
  • Cull magazines and papers
  • Polish mirrors, doorglasses, computers and TV screens
  • Thoroughly clean bathrooms

I love this list because if I look at a dusty table I can say to myself, ("You'll get your attention on Friday when I dust everything" and then forget it!) You can laugh, (I just did) but this is a major in not carrying around emotional burdens.

Even my lists are my way of not carrying mental and emotional burdens. When I make my list on Monday (and my menus for the week) I am able to leave all the little wool-gathering thoughts on paper instead of asking myself "Now what was that I wanted to pick up at the store? Oh my, what was that I needed to have done by Thursday?" It just eases tension and stress to be able to go pick up the paper laying on my journal where I've listed my entire weeks chores.

The lists I wrote out above are typed and dropped down into sheet protectors. I have a dry erase pen that I write on the sheet protector with and at the end of the day I just wipe the slate clean and am ready for another day!

*Many of my ideas I got from Flylady--check her out, she's awesome on time management in homemaking!

Now for my own little paper list I make on Monday.

On the front of a sheet of notebook paper I write these headings:



This week under KITCHEN I had:

  • Make pie crusts
  • Make pickles
  • Make Brasco Broth
  • Gary's birthday cake
  • 4th of July dessert

Under SCHOOL I had:

  • Asher's summer school
  • Mail umbrella school

Under SEWING I had:

  • Gary's pants (hem)
  • Gary's suit pants (zipper)
  • Culottes, (JB, Briley, Audrey)
  • Baby outfits (embroidery)


  • MP3 player-warranty
  • Pickle recipe
  • Price digestive enzymes
  • Blog (if I have time:)


  • Send thank-you notes (x3)
  • Snail mail (x2)
  • E-mails (personalx1)
  • Call Oriental Trading Co.


  • Play game with kids
  • Gary's birthday (special supper, gift)


  • Sunday School lesson
  • Order crafts (Oriental Trading Co.)
  • Buy snacks for canteen
  • Draw girls for bulletin board
  • Make cabin signs (This is a subject for another blog--My camp theme that my class is loving!)

On the back of that paper I put my menu and my shopping list. We usually head to town on Monday afternoon and I load up our lives for another week at the Neal Parsonage! This weeks menu includes taco salad, Chinese pepper steak, leftover Salisbury Steak (from Sunday dinner--make a big, big Sunday dinner and you never have to cook a meal on Monday evening!:), and grilled ribeye steaks and baked potatoes for my sweetheart's birthday! Desserts are parfaits, Strawberry pretzel dessert, and Pineapple Upside Down Cake for hubby's birthday. All the desserts are scaled down in calories trying to help the family eat a little lighter. Once a month I have "Thrift Week" when I try to spend as little as possible on groceries. I write that on the top of my week so I don't get carried away when I'm planning the menu. All menus are subject to instant change if we find a deal we can't pass up. (And we have a grocery in town that lets that happen pretty regularly!) My husband makes an early Monday morning pass at the local small grocery when he goes to the bank and comes homes with meat deals you wouldn't believe. Today he brought home a beautiful shoulder roast for $1.00 per pound!

Well, that's my little talk on time management! I've practiced it for years now and it really, really works for me. I'd love to hear others ideas that help them to keep time "redeemed".

With love,


Friday, June 12, 2009

A visit from the grandchildren...

My husband went to Indiana to see his mother at the end of May and on his way home he picked up four precious little ones (all but baby Macey) and brought them home to Grandma Tami (and Grandpa Gary) to enjoy for a few days. And enjoy them we did!

I had baked all day getting things ready for them. Everything was baked for grandkids and for Sunday except for the Marble Toll House Squares. These have to be baked by Audrey and her grandma. Audrey is three and when she was still a little thing she and I had our first baking time together.

This day was a precious memory for me. With Marble Toll House Squares you sprinkle the chocolate chips on top of the cookies at the last and then swirl them--hence the word "marble" in their name! Well, I would hand Audrey a handful of chips to put on top of them and she would start to sprinkle them on and then decide to eat them instead. It took some convincing (and quite a few bites) to get the chips where they were intended. Since then Audrey uses the word "baking" to mean "make Marble Toll House Squares".
On her last visit I made the mistake of thinking we could bake something else and within 20 minutes of finishing regular chocolate chip cookies she was asking me when we were going to bake! I have learned that when Audrey asks to bake she is talking about Marble Toll House Squares. She asks me as we are baking them when we're going to get to the part where we sprinkle the chips on top. At the end of a busy Saturday the children were fed Pizzaburgers and fries and Audrey and I had a table full of goodies. Some to eat themselves, some to share in Sunday School and some for our wonderful Sunday dinner. We had Peanut Butter Bars, Hot Fudge Cake, Cinnamon Twist Pound Cake and Marble Toll House Squares. The children always play so well with our children and I enjoyed hearing giggles and talking. I enjoyed sitting on the carport and watching Isaiah learning to ride a little bicycle, (after several crashes!), watching the children play in water and watching them eat supper outside in the warm early summer sunshine. They even were thrilled and amazed when grandma joined them in a game of wiffle ball!

We ended the week by celebrating our Cierra's 13th birthday in the Smoky Mountains at Powell Farms. Jimmy (our son-in-law) was going to be preaching his niece's wedding there and Alicia had found out the farm was available. This place is a child's dream come true because of a private pool in the back yard! It is a perfect place for a family that swims in their culottes and slick pants :)
Thursday we were to head to Powell Farm with the kids and grandkids and the weather forecast said there was a 90% chance of thunderstorms all day with the high only at 77 degrees. Not good for children's morale when they've been sky high over swimming in a real pool!

Thursday morning I prayed and asked the Lord to let it rain all around us but to please keep the storms away from Powell Farms and let us have sunshine. I told the kids about it and they told me that their grandpa had prayed at breakfast that it wouldn't rain.

When we got there--guess what---sunshine! While we were getting them a hamburger at McDonald's one of them said, "Hey, grandma prayed that it wouldn't rain and the sun is shining!" Another one said, "And grandpa prayed at breakfast!"

I told Gary, "That is what I want to be remembered for by our grandchildren--that when grandpa and grandma pray the Lord answers!"

All day we watched storms around us. Grey clouds, thunder, but it didn't rain a drop on us till it was late in the evening and time to call it a day. The sun stayed on us most the day and we had the most wonderful time!

We enjoyed being with Jimmy and Alicia and their children, Gary's dad and AllaDean, his brother Jerry (who just got saved in May!) and our own sweet children that are at home. How thankful I am for this time with my grandchildren that the Lord gave me this summer! Thank You Lord!

Friday, May 22, 2009

Recipe time!

I guess I should have some kind of method as far as which day I talk about which thing, and I'm working on that....blogging and I are relatively new.

Today I made Oatmeal Sandwich cookies. They are one of our favorites in this household. I would guess Chocolate Chip and Monster Cookies run a tie with them depending on who you ask!...
...Or maybe Oatmeal Raisin.. or if you asked my husband it would be a tie with the Monster Cookies and Peanut Butter Cookies. Oh well, I guess you could say that this bunch loves home baked cookies.

Back to today's cookies-I first discovered them in a cookbook at my daughter Alicia's house and made them for her children when I was staying with them when Audrey was born. They were a hit! We all said, "Little Debbie, eat your heart out!" (and I love Little Debbie oatmeal cakes!)

These take a lot of shortening so go buy you a new can! The filling is wonderful and the cookies are chewy on the inside and a little crunch on the edges...can you smell the cinnamon? Be sure and follow the rule of baking cookies--slightly underbake your cookies.

Here's the recipe:

1 1/2 cup shortening

2 2/3 cups packed brown sugar

4 eggs

2 tsp. vanilla

2 1/4 cups all purpose flour

2 tsp ground cinnamon

1 1/2 tsp. baking soda

1 tsp. salt

1/2 tsp. nutmeg

4 cups old-fashioned oatmeal (I've used regular oats and they're not quite as good.)


3/4 cup shortening

3 cups powdered sugar

1 jar (7 oz.) marshmellow creme

1-3 Tbsp. milk

In a mixing bowl, cream shortening and brown sugar. Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Beat in vanilla. Combine flour, cinnamon, baking soda, salt and nutmeg; add to creamed mixture. Stir in oats. Drop by rounded spoonfuls 2 inches apart onto lightly greased baking sheets. Bake at 350 degrees for 10- 12 minutes. (I bake mine 8 minutes.)

For filling, in a mixing bowl, cream shortening, sugar and marshmallow creme. Add enough milk to achieve spreading consistency. Spread filliing on the bottom half of the cookie; and top with remaining cookie.

Give these a try! They make a large batch and your kids will love them. Give your children an adulthood memories of mom making warm, wonderful baked goods for them. They're worth it!

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Lessons from my pastor husband...

When I was a girl I remember laying in bed and listening to my pastor dad counseling people with the word of God. He had no idea that someone else was getting counseling at the same time. I would watch these people leave our home and either follow the counsel or ignore it. Most of them didn't listen and I watched as their lives fell apart. I remember making decisions based on what I heard and saw.
Now I'm 53 years old and I'm still listening to the man of God counsel people. My husband seems to have a lot of people call him for their counsel. This week I overheard him talking to someone about "dying to self" and living in obedience to God.
Now I've heard that message again and again but this time as I heard him it came home. He kept repeating that we cannot back God in a corner and agree to do what He wants if He'll do what we want. It doesn't work that way. We do what God wants because He's God and that's the only way that will make life work for us.
People will agree that their life is a wreck, they'll agree they need help, they'll agree that they are at the end of themselves--but my husband made the comment that until we want God worse than we want anything else in the world we won't see that there is no bargaining with God or making deals with Him.
He said it's called "dying to self" or the "crucified life". I stood at the sink later realizing that I still have areas where I need to delete the words "I want" from my life. It doesn't matter what I want. It matters what God wants and it matters what the authority he's put in my life (my husband) wants.
I remembered years ago when a lady came to us constantly wanting help because her husband had left her for another woman. She had been fasting for days and days and she had given up her improper clothing, wrong music, and other "questionable" things she'd allowed in her life. I was impressed and couldn't understand why my husband was what I thought-- "very hard on her".
In the counseling we had both realized that she had been a very strong-willed woman and both she and her husband had been very carnal Christians. Authority had not been a pleasant thing for her but it appeared to me that she was finally ready to surrender to it.
One day I finally asked my husband why he was so unimpressed after she was making so many changes in her life. He told me that her attitude was one of holding God's arm behind his back and making deals with Him. She felt God "owed her" a restored marriage because she was finally doing what she'd known all along He wanted. He also told me that when God didn't give her what she wanted (and God was under no obligation to her to do it) that everything would go back to where it was and she'd be angry at God for not giving her what she'd "paid" Him for.
Sure enough, when the husband married someone else that woman became a major problem in the church. All her new standards disappeared and her bitterness and anger was spread everywhere!
Now I knew my husband was right but it was like it finally fell into place for me this week. How I pray that when I obey the Lord it is because of just that--He is Lord. I pray that when I start to tell the Lord what I want I'll be prompted to stop and add to that--"once I am certain that this is what You want, Lord."
Thank You Lord that I'm still receiving counsel from You and thank You for a man of God who faithfully delivers Your word to those who talk to him.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Just Five Minutes...

On Tuesday morning I usually wake up feeling a little overwhelmed. We take Monday as a family day and since we've just got through a very busy weekend I am facing laundry, getting the school week going, making food for myself for the week and the list goes on and on.
Years ago I discovered that those little 5 minute time periods when you aren't sure what to do next can get a lot done. I've timed myself--I can empty a very full dishwasher in about 3 1/2 minutes. It's amazing how many dishes you can get washed in 5 minutes. You can fold a load of laundry in less than 5 minutes. I can stir up biscuits or a batch of cookies in 5 minutes. I can have an apple crisp baking within 5 minutes (I've canned the pie filling!) and have Marble Toll House squares baking for unexpected company in 5 minutes. (And they only bake for 10-12 minutes!)
I can completely pick up a room in 5 minutes and I can bleach the toilet, clean the mirrors and vanity top and spray the shower in 5 minutes. I could go on and on with the things that I have times myself on that can be done in 5 minutes.
Since using my 5 minutes plan for years and years I discovered Flylady. I found her shortly after I was beginning to come out of my depression years and asking the Lord to help me remove any "weights" in my life that were holding me down.
I consider myself very organized (maybe structured is a better word) and so I really didn't think it would change things that much but I love her 15 minutes plan which is similar to mine but aimed at the bigger projects in life.
If you've never been to Flylady's website and you stay frustrated with your organization skills then you need to go there and do some serious reading. She's amazing at helping you see your way out of being overwhelmed with all your duties.
This week I have several 15 minutes projects going. I have spent 15 minutes in my bathroom (the bathroom and the laundry room are this weeks zones to work in) and cleaned out old medicines and beauty products from the bathroom closet. I also am taking one mini-blind per day and cleaning them in the bathtub. It's a good feeling to see spring cleaning get done by just a small chunk of time per day!
I have my notebook (she calls it a control journal) on the end of the breakfast bar from Monday through Saturday. You slide it into a sheet protector and I write my daily duties on there (over and above what I've printed already) and check off my work as I go. Now I live by lists so this is right down my alley. It gives me a good feeling to see the list being marked off.
Today's list was: make yogurt, make Brasco Broth, feed the sourdough starter, make school schedules and do two loads of laundry. That was over and above the pre-printed : *Read Bible *Pray *Empty dishwasher, *Load Dishwasher *What's for Supper? *Laundry for today *Drink 8 glasses of water *Walk 15 minutes *Cook supper *Write or sew for one hour and*Zone work and it's all done!
I decide what's for supper right after breakfast and write it on my daily chore list where I've left a blank after *What's For Supper? _____________ This has really helped me with thinking that I didn't thaw the meat at about 3:00 pm. :)
In closing, I'm going to give you my recipe for Toll House Marble Squares. This was one of my Grandma Mettler's favorite recipes. Now I know why--it's quick and it's wonderful!
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
1 cup oleo
1 cup brown sugar
1 cup white sugar
1 tsp. vanilla
Beat in:
2 eggs
2 cups flour
1 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. salt
Spread in greased cookie sheet and sprinkle with 1/2 bag of semisweet chocolate chips.
Place in oven for 1 minute. Remove from oven and run knife through batter to marbelize the batter. Return to oven and bake for 12-14 minutes at 350 degrees. Cool and cut in squares.
This batter will fill a large cookie sheet. In my oven they bake between 10-12 minutes.
Give it a try, you'll love them!

Saturday, May 2, 2009


This morning my mind was on mothering. I guess it was because I've been hearing commercials and getting e-mails about Mother's Day. Of course, I thought of my own sweet mother and the memories of my childhood that are precious.
One distinct memory I have in my first five years is the smell of her face. She used Cover Girl makeup and I can remember thinking how soft she was and how sweet she smelled.
Kindergarten was very frightening to me. I remember coming home from school and curling up in my mother's arms in a rocker and making sure I was close to that sweet smell of "my" mother. A little phonograph sat on a stool next to the rocker and she would play a record as she rocked me.
I remember sitting in a big walk-in pantry off of the kitchen and playing by the hour with a cardboard family my mother made me out of poster board. The dad wore a business suit and went to work each day. I had a house (upstairs and downstairs!) where the mom and dad slid into their bed (neat slots) the baby had a nursery and my cardboard oven and refrigerator actually opened! My mom drew the mother in different positions. She might be at the stove, sitting on the couch, dressed in her lovely nightgown and robe ready for bed or pushing her shopping cart. I had a little grocery too, with a chubby butcher who actually had little meats to take in and out of his meat case!
It took time for my mother to make that for me, but she created more in my heart than just a cardboard family. She created a love for her, her values, family with a mother at home and a dad at work. Her afternoon of drawing something for me had big dividends in her life.
Another memory is that of always knowing that my mother was there. If I was playing outside she was just a call away. Sometimes I would run in just to be comforted by seeing her in the kitchen. As a newly married bride I remember walking down to chat with her one day and she wasn't there! I remember wondering what was wrong, or who had got sick! I also remember the little prick of irritation--mom was supposed to be there where she belonged.
When my husband was pastoring in another part of Tennessee we would get newsletters from a Christian legal group educating you on problems that could affect the church. One newsletter was on teenage suicide. This was back in the 80's or early 90's. I remember that it said that over 60% of teens suicide notes faulted the mother for "not being there when I needed you".
Scripture makes it clear that a child left to himself will bring shame to his mother. (Proverbs 29:15) That word "left" means to send away, to dismiss, to let loose, to give over. Who have we given our children over to so that we can do what we want with our time. The government, a daycare facility, the television, a computer, even our church and its activities or grandma?
Scripture also clearly defines where our lives are to be spent as wives and mothers. (Titus 2 and Proverbs 31 for starters!) It would do us all good to ask how much time we are spending outside of our God-given domain. This time includes the computer and the tv and the telephone--not just the mother that walks out the door to punch a time clock each day. It also includes being a busy beaver in ministry work outside of the doors of your home. Make your home the core of your ministry. There is plenty to do from within its walls that will minister to others. Even one trip a day out of the home can destroy proper priorities in a woman's life.
Remember Superwoman is a figment of someone's very active imagination. Something is going to use up your time and how anyone can find time to do more than her domestic duties that God has given her in His word is beyond me. Something is going to go undone, and it's usually the ones that should be at the top of our list!
Beside the fact that it damages our children (when we find other things more important to us than they are) women are missing so much that cannot be reclaimed and is so wonderfully valuable.
Go buy a little piece of clothesline and string it up at your daughter's height. Buy some little clothespins at the craft store. Pick a warm, sunny day and get her two dishpans and fill one with sudsy water and one with warm rinse water. Help her wash her dolly's clothes and hang them up. You can be the neighbor lady or the grandma of the baby. After they're dry let her help iron them and put them away.
I can promise you that this will be one of those "Mom, do you remember when?" moments in your life.
Take your little boy and go outside and help him make a town in the dirt. Little streets for his trucks and a little field for his tractors. Name his little town with him. Get down on the ground and play with him! He won't forget the day you did that when he is grown.
Women are so busy today chasing valueless things and it breaks my heart. Each generation is showing the loss of their spiritual moorings and I firmly believe that the mama that wore an apron, cooked hot homemade meals for her family, found pride in the white shirt she had neatly pressed for her husband and loved sitting in the evenings reading to her family is why the word of God is being "blasphemed" now instead of revered. (Titus 2:5b)
Let's each one have a "heart to heart" with the Lord and decide that we're going to keep our chicks under our wings. It doesn't take money it takes being there. If this message was taken to heart by the saved women that each one of us know it would revolutionize and revive America. You can't do it for anyone else, but you and I can decide that we individually are going to do it.
It is my prayer that each of my "daughters" and "sisters" that read this will "stand perfect and complete in all his will" (Colossians 4:12) in this area of your life. Let's hold each other up and "pray and obey" together. The dividends are eternal!